Tow Vehicles: How Big is Big Enough?

In addition to spending far too much time looking at used boats on BoatTrader.com, even though I don’t need another, I just as often look at gently used trucks, even though mine is fine. Odd hobby, I know. My wife reminds all the time.

As I was looking up towing capacities of late model pickups, it hit me. The amount of weight trucks can pull nowadays is staggering. Let me give you some examples.

You might think you need a monster dually, but even half-ton trucks are capable of hauling the family runabout.

The new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 3500 HDs are capable of pulling a maximum of 21,700 pounds on a gooseneck or fifth-wheel hitch. Ford’s F-350 Super Duty can pull 21,600 pounds (the F-450 pulls 24,500), and Dodge’s Ram 3500 HD is rated for 19,950 pounds.

That’s an incredible amount of trailer weight behind a pickup, I thought, and darn near three times the weight of the truck itself. I guess there are a few people who really need that kind of towing capacity, but it made me wonder where the “arms race” ends.

Sure, it’s a mighty impressive truck, but you don’t need that much might to pull the family runabout.

Every time I see that commercial for the Chevrolet Silverado 3500 HD shown towing a massive, twin-screw aluminum fishing boat—vessel is a better word for a boat that size—I shudder at the notion of trying to stop 21,700 pounds of weight with a 7,000-plus pound truck. Even with dual rear wheels and trailer braking systems, it’s not something I’d enjoy towing, especially on wet pavement.

Are the Big Three planning to offer trucks that tow even more? At what point does it go from being a capability to a liability? Is it really a good idea to pull that much weight with a pickup, or would it be safer to go with a business-class chassis from the likes of Freightliner, Peterbilt, or International?

More important, do you really need a crew cab with dual rear wheels to pull the family runabout? (The answer is no.) To be sure, the quality and variety of the heavy-duty pickups on today’s market is as impressive as the amount of weight they are able to pull. They are truly awesome trucks. But I think we have reached point where they are big enough, and capable enough, and the simple truth is that most boaters don’t need that much truck anyway.

Then again, that dually I just saw on AutoTrader.com would be great for pulling the Pro Line walkaround I found on BoatTrader.com…

- Brett Becker

Comments

  1. Captain Joe says:

    Too bad it doesnt apply to the 2500 Suburbans…they really cut down the town weight from 12500 on my old one to 9000 or something

    • gus di palma says:

      AFTER READING YOUR COMENTS ON HOW BIG THE TRUCK NEED TO BE,I JUST WANT TO SAID THAT I OWN A 2006 GMC3500 DUALLY.I FORGOT HOW MANY TIMES I DID INHITCH MY BOAT IN THE PARKING LOT AND WENT TO RESCUE ANOTHER FELLOW BOATER THAT GOT STUCK IN THE RAMP AT LOW TIDE ,SPINNING HIS WHEELS .. THEN I HOOK MY TRUCK TO HIS SET(TRUCK AND BOAT ) AND PULL THEM UP TO THE CLEAR.

      MY POINT ,FOUR WHEEL DRIVE AND BIG IS THE WAY TO GO TO PULL A BOAT UP THE RAMP IN ANY CONDITION.
      ALSO HAVE YOU THINK OF A FREIGTH LINER TRUCK TRACTOR WEIGTH RELATED TO THE MASSIVE VAN THAT HE IS PULLING??
      IT WILL BE THE SAME AS MY GMC WEIGTH RELATED TO MY 51 FEET FOUR CAR CAR HAULER THAT I USED TO PULL IN THE PAST.
      AND I TELL YOU CROSS COUNTRY FROM FLORIDA TO CALIFORNIA WERE AS IF GOING TO THE MALL….BY

  2. Captain WuHu says:

    Well, even big rig cabs have a much lower weight than the loads they are pulling with gross ratings topping out around 80,000 pounds! Granted they do have more rubber on the ground than a truck to help with braking.

  3. Thats got to be a pretty stiff ride in a 3500 isn’t it?
    Or does it mellow out with more weight behind it?
    Or does the weight have to be in the bed?
    I know my 3/4 ton Ford has a better ride with some weight in the bed of it.

  4. jake frankhouser says:

    I haul my 23′ SeaFox CC( fiberglas) from Fla. to Lake Erie and all around with my 1994 Olds Bravada. I put on a 10,000# capacity tranny cooler. With the t-top it is 11 feet from the ground and my car look out of scale. It almost overheats the engine when i hit the W.Virginia mountains and I only get 9 MPG…but it is cheaper than a 3500 dually. I do have to be careful on stopping…but i am a cautious driver. So far so good.

  5. Brett Becker says:

    All the 2500s and 3500s I’ve ever driven always ride nicer with a big trailer hooked up. Without the load, the stiff rear springs can be a bit harsh, which is probably why a lot of people with those big trucks have a small car for getting groceries.

  6. Jon Gott says:

    I drive a 04 Dodge 2500 w/ cummins of course. I have pulled 9500 lbs from KY to FL without any problems. I agree that the 2500 & 3500 ride better with a load. I also tow 6500 lbs of boat and trailer most every weekend. I see some of the smaller SUV’s hauling some pretty large boats as well, I just wonder how well they pull the boat/trailer out of the water. As always, be extra cautious on your braking distance.

    • Dave says:

      As a broker I used to pull a wide variety of boat/ trailers with ’01 Expedition 2wd. Never had a problem on a ramp . I was told the wheelbase is better and it has automatic leveling. Problem with a pick-up is lack of proper downward pressure on rear wheels – much more dependent on proper tongue weight for traction. I would use a 4wd F350 for any thing big enough for twin engines or for a fully fueled fully loaded long trip. Just because one can or could does not mean you could or should! Best advice for a boater….Twin Batts w/ switch and a charged battery pack. Learn to USE the Battery Switch. Let someone else worry about beer and ice. The Charged-battery back is for the inevitable dead battery holding up the ramp in front of you. Odds are good the folks with the dead battery will have plenty of beer and ice to trade.

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